Coronavirus Israel: President Apologizes for Leadership Failure as Cases Break Record

Gov't approves regulations for three-week lockdown beginning Friday ■ Israel active cases top 40,000, more than 10,000 in the West Bank ■ Al-Aqsa Mosque closes for three weeks

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Two doctors at a coronavirus ward in Haifa, September 16, 2020
Two doctors at a coronavirus ward in Haifa, September 16, 2020Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
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Haaretz

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Israel, the West Bank and Gaza are dealing with a renewed coronavirus outbreak, leading to proposals and measures intended to curb its spread and mitigate the economic ramifications of the crisis by both Israeli and Palestinian authorities.

Israel currently has 46,081 active cases; 1,165 people have died. In the West Bank, there are 10,433 active cases and 246 deaths, and in Gaza 1,688 active cases and 15 deaths. 

Zoom with Haaretz: How Israel’s COVID failure led to a second national lockdown. The event will take place on Wednesday, September 23 at 7 P.M. Israel time, noon EDT. https://zoom.us/j/91630216874

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LIVE UPDATES

8:00 A.M. Government approves lockdown to go into effect 2:00 P.M. Friday

The government approved Thursday the lockdown regulations that will go into effect on Friday at 2:00P.M. ahead of the the Jewish High Holidays. The lockdown is expected to last for three weeks, until October 11.

Under the lockdown regulations, Israelis are restricted to a 500-meter radius of their homes, with limited exceptions. Public spaces, such as parks and playgrounds will be open. Exercise, solitary or with another person living in the same household, is permitted at any distance from the home. 

Spending time in the home of another person, even if it is within 500-meters of your own home, is not permitted.

LISTEN: Why did Israel let 70 evangelicals flout its COVID-19 travel ban?

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Schools will be closed from Thursday, with the exception of special education and at-risk-youth programs.

Work places in the public sector will work in a limited fashion, and private workplaces can continue as usual – though they cannot receive visitors or clients at their place of work, with the exception of essential services. Essential businesses, including supermarkets, pharmacies and delivery services will continue to function.

Public transportation will function in a limited fashion. gatherings will be limited to ten people in an enclosed space and 20 people in an open space.

A maximum of 3 people can be driven in a car, unless more live in the same house, with one additional passenger allowed for each extra row of seats.

Essential services like postal services and banks will be operating. 

Holiday prayer services will be held in small groups, wose side will be determined by the rate of infection in each town. (Ido Efrati and Jonathan Lis)

12:10 A.M. Updated Health Ministry figures bring active cases to 46,081

Updated figures released by the Health Ministry have brought the number of active cases to 46,081 and the number of total cases to 170,465, marking an increase of 6,063 new cases on Wednesday. The death toll rose to 1,165 an increase of 18 since Tuesday. (Haaretz)

WEDNESDAY

9:35 P.M. Ministries, police meet to discuss limiting protests during lockdown

The Justice Ministry, the Health Ministry and the police are drafting an outline for limiting attendance at protests during the lockdown, particularly for the weekly demonstrations outside the prime minister's residence, while maintaining social distancing between protesters.

It has not yet been determined how many protesters will be allowed to congregate, and whether Israelis will be able to demonstrate beyond a distance of 500 meters from their homes during lockdown.

Senior Justice Ministry officials have been holding discussions over the past few days on the issue with Health Ministry and Israel Police representatives, the latter of whom have expressed support for limiting the number of protesters. However, it is still unclear how the police will be able to prevent more protesters from participating in demonstrations beyond the quota that will be set.

"We also have a hard time explaining why a demonstration is allowed but another outdoor gathering is forbidden," a senior police officer said. "The demonstrations should be regulated and freedom of expression should be allowed, but at the very least, while keeping a distance between the demonstrators."

The Health Ministry proposed an outline similar to that of performances, which are held in capsules. However, police officials opposed the proposal, as enforcing those capsules during demonstrations would prove difficult. The Justice Ministry also points to the challenge of treating demonstrations similarly to prayer services, due to the differences in frequency and the number of participants across the country. (Netael Bandel and Jonathan Lis)

9:13 P.M. Netanyahu flouts Health Ministry guidelines, meets with unmasked supporters

According to Health Ministry guidelines, every member of the Israeli delegation to Washington was supposed to go directly to their homes after disembarking and remain in quarantine until they could undergo contact tracing and a coronavirus test.

Despite this, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with supporters, some of whom were not wearing masks, immediately after disembarking the airplane. (Noa Landau)

8:30 P.M. President apologizes for leadership shortcomings ahead of lockdown

In his speech ahead of the nationwide lockdown on Friday, President Reuven Rivlin said that Israel's leadership disappointed its citizens in its handling of the coronavirus crisis, and asked for their forgiveness.

"I understand the feelings of confusion and uncertainty, the anxiety that many people are feeling. I understand and, first and foremost, want to apologize for that," Rivlin said, adding that he asks the public for forgiveness for his violation of the Passover lockdown, when he hosted family members.

"We did not do enough as leaders to deserve your attention. You trusted us, and we disappointed you," he said. 

"You, the citizens of Israel, deserve a safety net that the country gives you. Decision-makers, government ministries, policy implementers must work for you and only for you. To save lives, to reduce infection, to rescue the economy," he added. "I understand the feeling that none of these were done satisfactorily. And now, today, my fellow Israelis, we are forced to pay the price again." 

He said, "And from here, I want to say to the government of Israel – its leaders, ministers and advisors: the trust of the people is beyond value. We must do everything to restore personal, medical and economic confidence to our fellow citizens," he added.

"This is a second chance and we must take it because we will not, I fear, get a third one." (Jonathan Lis)

7:34 P.M. Israel sees highest number of new daily cases, patients in serious condition

According to the Health Ministry, 16 people have died since Tuesday, raising the the country's death toll from the coronavirus to 1,163.

The number of patients in serious condition also rose to the highest number since the pandemic began, reaching 551 on Wednesday, as did the number of daily cases, after a total of 4,950 new cases were diagnosed on Wednesday. There are currently 137 patients on ventilators.

On Tuesday, Israel conducted 57,251 tests, also the highest since COVID-19 reached the country. (Haaretz)

7:20 P.M. Jerusalem hospital says lack of funds is the problem, not overburdened facilities

Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem said that it is not experiencing insufficiency, and it is certainly not collapsing, despite a Health Ministry statement that recommended evacuating patients from it due to the burden of coronavirus patients.

"This long period is certainly making its mark among the staff, and raising tensions and exhaustion on particular days," a statement from the medical center said. "If needed, when the time comes, perhaps we will use the Health Ministry's offer to transfer patients to other hospitals, but that's not a problem at the moment!"

The central issue, the hospital said, is a lack of funds earmarked for operating the wards and allocating staff positions for them, which it needs immediately.

"We did not receive the funds we were supposed to from the government, and we did not benefit from a share of the additional funds for the health system that the prime minister recently announced," the statement said.

"We are eking out from month to month out of an inability to pay salaries and payments to suppliers. We can enlarge our coronavirus ward and treat every person in need, but we must be funded for that." (Ido Efrati)       

7:15 P.M. Government has not yet presented lockdown regulations for Knesset approval

The government has not yet given its lockdown guidelines to the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee for their approval. The committee will meet Thursday at 9:30 A.M. to discuss the lockdown, which goes into effect Friday afternoon, a statement from the Knesset spokesperson said.

In accordance with the law, the regulations will be presented by the ministerial cabinet to the Knesset committee, which has 24 hours to approve all or some of them, none at all, or to change the timeframe for which they are valid.

If the committee does not make a decision on the regulations within those 24 hours, the rules will be published and automatically go into effect. The committee will then have seven days to discuss and approve the regulations regarding private and public spaces, and 14 days for those pertaining to businesses. (Jonathan Lis)

6:15 P.M. Israeli delegates returning form Washington will travel in capsules

Ahead of the return of the Israeli delegation to the Israel-Bahrain-UAE agreements signing in Washington, a strict "capsule" plan is being used to safeguard the health of its members while traveling, the Health Ministry said.

The plan is the same as those used by traveling athletes and businesspeople, in order to minimize the risk of infection.

The returning delegates will enter a shortened five-day quarantine upon returning, and their contacts will be traced in the coming days. Those who do not abide by the capsule plan will have to complete the full 14-day quarantine. (Ido Efrati)

6:10 P.M. Hospital opening emergency underground coronavirus treatment complex

The Defense Ministry and Beilinson Hospital in central Israel released a joint statement saying that the medical center will be opening its emergency underground hospitalization complex tomorrow morning.

The complex can fit 206 hospital beds, which are in short supply as Israel's hospitals bear the burden of an increased flow of COVID-19 patients. Forty patients are expected to be hospitalized there tomorrow, all from the north, where hospitals are reaching maximum capacity and beginning to send patients to hospitals in the center and south. 

The complex includes four intensive care units for coronavirus patients in serious condition and those on ventilators, built by the Defense Ministry's engineering and construction department. (Bar Peleg)

3:41 P.M. 500 more soldiers to be sent to enforce lockdown

Defense Minister Benny Gantz has ordered that 500 more IDF soldiers join policing efforts during the lockdown beginning Friday, in accordance with requests made by the Israel Police. 

With this order, the number of soldiers allocated to the operation stands at 1,000, in addition to the thusands of Home Front Command soldiers who will be sent to various cities, as part of the effort to break the chain of infection, handing out food and supplying information. (Yaniv Kubovich)

2:57 P.M. COVID-19 patients in hospitals in north, Jerusalem, to be transferred amid overcrowding

Due to overcrowding in hospitals in the country's north and in Jerusalem, patients from the region will be transported via ambulances to hospitals in the south and center, the Health Ministry said. 

"In light of the increase in the number of confirmed patients and hot spots in these areas, there is a forecast for continued crowding in the north and in Jerusalem," the Health Ministry document, addressed to the heads of hospitals, says. 

"At this point, the possibilities of adding additional beds in northern Israel have been exhausted," it reads. 

The patient transfers have begun this morning, and will continue through Friday morning. Most of the patients transferred will be in moderate condition, patients who will need to be hospitalized for over 72 hours. (Haaretz)   

2:22 P.M. Netanyahu's White House delegation pushed for quarantine exemption, and got a reduction

The delegation that accompanied Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the signing ceremony in Washington has received a major reduction in the amount of time they will have to quarantine upon their return on Wednesday – only five days instead of the 14 required for those returning to Israel from the United States.

The delegation was also required to take COVID-19 tests before their trip and upon their arrival in Israel.

The organizers of the delegation tried to receive a full exemption from any medical isolation upon their return, prompting a clash with Health Ministry officials, who insisted delegation members spend at least five days in isolation, ministry officials said.

"There was a bit of shouting, but everyone is going to sit at home until Monday,” said one of the officials. (Ido Efrati and Amos Harel)

>> Click here to read the full report

1:15 P.M. Al-Aqsa Mosque to close for three weeks due to virus fears

The Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City will be shut for three weeks starting Friday due to coronavirus regulations, the Waqf, the Muslim religious trust responsible for it, announced.

A Waqf official said the decision was made due to the continuing increase in the number of cases in general and in the Jerusalem area in particular, including among worshipers.

According to data presented by the committee combating the virus in East Jerusalem, the number of active cases there is approaching 2,000, with 207 new cases recorded Tuesday while the number of deaths since the beginning of the crisis reached 43. (Jack Khoury)

1:00 P.M. Infection rate in Arab community higher among women than men

The coronavirus infection rate among Arab women in Israel during the second wave of the coronavirus crisis is much higher than that of men in the community, and has reached 60 percent – and in certain areas is as high as 85 percent, showed a new Health Ministry report. 

Based on an analysis of the timing of the increase in infection and the details of those infected, the authors of the report consider the source of the differences in the rate of infection based on gender in the Arab community as related to the “wedding season,” which began with the end of the month of Ramadan in May. The researchers estimate that this is because women spend more time at the weddings in closed spaces, and so are infected more at the weddings.

As a result, the report recommends a campaign directed at the women of the Arab community to encourage social distancing at weddings and other events, as well as increased enforcement and testing. The number of tests conducted for Arab men and women is similar, and the rate of tests with positive results is about 8 percent for women and 6 percent for men, while the rates are quite similar among both men and women for the rest of Israeli society. (Ido Efrati)

12:50 P.M. Weekend buses in Tel Aviv area to stop during lockdown

Weekend bus lines in the Tel Aviv metropolitan area will stop operating as of Friday, when a nationwide lockdown goes into effect, the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality said. Deputy Mayor Meital Lehavi stressed the suspension of the service, operated by local authorities, is only temporary and it would resume after the three-week lockdown ends.

Other public transport services are expected to continue operating during the lockdown but with some restrictions. (Bar Peleg)

10:40 A.M. Deputy Health Minister says not to expect significant decrease in cases after lockdown 

Deputy Health Minister Yoav Kish told Kan Bet public radio “you can’t expect a significant decrease in infection rates” following Israel’s three-week coronavirus lockdown, set to go into effect on Friday. “I’m starting to worry,” he said, adding that this lockdown “won’t be like the lockdown we know,” but instead would limit commerce, entertainment and leisure activities.

According to Kish, those who want to defy lockdown orders “will find an excuse” to do so, and the main goal of it is to prevent a renewed surge during the Jewish High Holy Days. (Haaretz)

10:30 A.M. Half of Israelis now live in 'red' areas with highest coronavirus infection rates

A week after restrictions were imposed on 40 neighborhoods and communities with high coronavirus infection rates, in accordance with the Health Ministry’s traffic-light-themed plan, Israel is on its way to being fully “red.” On Tuesday, 83 locales with a total of 4 million residents – nearly half the country’s population – merited this classification, together with the harshest restrictions that it brings.

An additional 51 communities, with 2.5 million inhabitants, were coded orange, just one step down from red in the five-color scheme.

Sources in the Health Ministry, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Haaretz there are virtually no “green” cities left in Israel, and that 97 percent of populated areas are coded yellow or higher. During a meeting of the coronavirus cabinet Monday, the head of the ministry’s public health services, Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis, said: ”Infection rates are doubling in 97 percent of populated areas, that is to say within just two days, turning them from green to red. (Ido Efrati)

>> Read full report here

9:00 A.M. Israel to close all schools starting Thursday, day before lockdown 

The Israeli government announced Tuesday morning that they have approved the Health Ministry's recommendation and will close all schools, excluding special education, starting Thursday, a day before the country is set to begin a three-week nationwide lockdown. (Ido Efrati)

8:00 A.M. Israel registers over 2,000 new cases 

The Health Ministry said that 2,572 more people have tested positive for the coronavirus on Tuesday morning, raising the nationwide tally of confirmed cases to 166,794, out of which 42,862 are active and 138 are on ventilators.

The nationwide death toll stands at 1,147, while 122,785 have recovered so far.

The ministry added that 57,165 COVID-19 tests were conducted on Tuesday. (Haaretz) 

2:00 A.M. The Israeli army fails to break coronavirus chains of infection

During the latest meetings of the coronavirus cabinet, on the eve of his trip to the United States, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu repeatedly asked about the system of epidemiological investigations, which is now being run by the Home Front Command. Netanyahu is not pleased with the timetable presented by the Israel Defense Forces, according to which the system will begin to operate fully only on November 1.

But it was the government that he headed that unnecessarily caused the months-long delay in transferring the task to the IDF. And although it looks as though the army will be ready on schedule this time, the increase in the number of identified carriers will make it difficult to conduct effective tests. The ability to break chains of infection will be very limited if the rate of illness continues to be about 5,000 or more cases a day. (Amos Harel)

>> Read full report here

TUESDAY

10:20 P.M. Schools to be closed starting Thursday, day before nationwide lockdown begins

Schools will be closed beginning on Thursday, a day before a nationwide lockdown begins Friday evening, in light of the fact that hundreds of students and some 100 teachers are being infected a day. 

Additional restrictions for the three-week lockdown period have also been decided upon. Restaurants will not be permitted to do take-away orders (although delivery will be allowed).  Inns and hotels will be closed. Families of those killed in the Yom Kippur War will be allowed to visit cemeteries, with only members of the nuclear family allowed to take part. Palestinian laborers from the West Bank will be allowed into Israel in separate pod. Yeshivas using pods in accordance with a  plan approved by the Health Ministry will be allowed to continue to operate. Soldiers will remain on their bases in accordance with the rules various units have established, while soldiers visiting home during the lockdown will travel on shuttles run by the military. (Jonathan Lis)

7:32 P.M. Restaurateurs hold 'broken plates' protest against lockdown

Restaurant owners throughout Israel held a protest by breaking plates, at the same time as the UAE and Bahrain deals were meant to be signed in Washington, D.C.

The action, spearheaded by the Restaurateurs Stronger Together organization, is meant to put pressure on the governement to cancel the lockdown, which is due to begin on Friday afternoon. The movement is also asking for compensation to be immediately given to business owners. 

"Further actions are being prepared and they will only intensify!" a statement said. (Bar Peleg

7:05 P.M. Hospital in Nahariya resumes accepting patients 

Western Galilee Hospital in Nahariya has resumed accepting coronavirus patients after a halt prompted by overcrowding,  thanks to the recovery of patients in its coronavirus wards and the return of staff that had been quarantined, Prof. Masad Barhoum, the hospital's director, announced. Barhoum cautioned that it was still very difficult for the hospital to accept patients in serious condition or on ventilators because of a lack of intensive care staff. There are currently 80 patients hospitalized in the hospital’s three coronavirus wards, including 32 in serious condition, of whom four are on ventilators. (Noa Shpigel)

6:08 P.M. Drive-through testing facilities to be closed for two days over high demand

Drive-through coronavirus testing stations will not be operating on Wednesday and Thursday because there are too many samples for labs to process every day, the military has announced. The number of daily samples taken has reached a high of more than 55,00, overburdening the country’s labs, which are able to process around 50,000 tests a day, according to a statement. The army said the move was meant to “provide results for the lab tests taken up to now, in light of the high demand” and allow the labs and health maintenance organization “to return the test results within a short time.” (Haaretz)

6:04 P.M. Bnei Brak says night curfew, business restrictions over

The city of Bnei Brak has announced that beginning on Tuesday evening, there will no longer be a nighttime curfew or restrictions on businesses’ opening hours. A week-long night curfew began last Tuesday in the city, along with dozens of towns and neighborhoods where authorities say the prevalence of the virus is especially high. There will be no change regarding schools, the city said. (Bar Peleg)

5:13 P.M. Netanyahu considering shuttering schools two days ahead of lockdown

A source in Netanyahu's delegation in Washington D.C. says that the prime minister and Health Minister Yuli Edelstein are considering moving up the closer of the education system to Wednesday, two days ahead of the nationwide lockdown that will commence on Friday at 2 P.M. (Noa Landau)

1:50 P.M. Hasidic Jewish pilgrims block Ukraine border when barred entry over coronavirus fears

Hundreds of Hasidic Jews who set off on a pilgrimage to Ukraine despite coronavirus restrictions blocked the frontier after border guards would not let them in.

A video posted by Ukrainian border guards showed dozens of Jews, including children, in traditional dress, carrying suitcases and wandering along a roadway amid parked trucks. (Reuters)

>> Click here for full report 

1:23 P.M. Israel's coronavirus czar urges ministers to shut down schools starting Wednesday

Coronavirus czar Ronni Gamzu made an urgent request to Health Minister Yuli Edelstein and Education Minister Yoav Gallant to immediately close schools across the country, at least from fifth grade to curb Israel's high infection rate.

Despite Gamzu's past recommendations on the matter, the government decided to postpone the closure of the schools system to Friday, when the lockdown is slated to begin. (Ronny Linder and Lior Dattel)   

12:24 P.M. Health Ministry data reveals pre-existing conditions

The main pre-existing conditions associated Israel's coronavirus deaths are high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease, according to data released by the Health Ministry on Monday.

Data presented to the Knesset’s coronavirus cabinet showed that 42 percent of the Israelis who died of the virus had high blood pressure (433 people), 29 percent had diabetes (296 people) and 27 percent had heart disease (27 people). (Ido Efrati)

>> Click here to read the full report

11:37 A.M. Israel registers almost 2,000 new cases since Monday night

The Health Ministry said that 1,905 more people have tested positive for the coronavirus since Monday night, raising the nationwide tally of confirmed cases to 162,273, out of which 40,689 are active and 140 are on ventilators.

Five more people have died from the virus, bringing the death toll to 1,141, while 120,443 have recovered so far.

The ministry added that 47,509 COVID-19 tests were conducted on Monday. (Haaretz)

10 A.M. Prominent Arab lawmaker enters quarantine after aide tests positive

Joint List faction chairman Ahmad Tibi was ordered into quarantine after one of his aide had tested positive for the coronavirus.

The Knesset's Chief Security Officer Yosef Griff requested all those who were exposed to the aide to quarantine until further Health Ministry instructions come in. (Jonathan Lis)

9:27 A.M. Expected lockdown restrictions: Playgrounds to remain open, beaches to close  

The government is expected to order the closure of beaches during the lockdown, but will allow access to parks and playgrounds within 500 meters of one's home, according to the ministerial committee on the coronavirus crisis. A final decision on the matter is subject to government and Knesset approvals.

Several ministers have already said they intend to reverse the decision to close the beaches, allowing bathing in the sea without prolonged stay outside the water.  

In addition, Individual sports in groups of up to four people will be allowed without distance limitations. Premiere leagues will be able to hold games without audience.

Furthermore, restaurants will be closed for service, but will remain open for deliveries and takeout. Healthcare services will continue operating, but beauty parlors and barbershops will probably close. (Josh Breiner)

00:15 A.M. Israel registers 4,764 cases

The Health Ministry registered 4,764 new coronavirus cases on Monday, raising the number of active cases in Israel to 40,647 and the total since the start of the pandemic to 160,368. There are currently over 1,000 hospitalized patients, of which 143 are on ventilators. The death toll stands at 1,136. Nearly 40,000 tests were conducted on Monday. 

MONDAY

7:45 P.M. Tel Aviv airport to remain open during lockdown

Tel Aviv's Ben-Gurion International Airport will continue to operate during the lockdown period, the Israeli government said on Monday.

Passengers departing from Tel Aviv must be able to show their tickets for a flight taking off within four hours of their arrival to the airport in order to be let into the premises. Israel will also continue allowing immigrants to land in the country, the government said.

The decision was made by a forum comprised of the health, transportation, interior and foreign ministers in consultation with national Security Council officials.

The government added that Israelis returning from "green" countries will continue not to be required to quarantine upon their arrival. Two countries however, Bulgaria and Croatia, might soon be downgraded from “green” to “red,” forcing Israeli returnees to isolate for two weeks since four days after the downgrading is made official. (Ido Efrati)

6:00 P.M. Health Ministry to allow Hasidic pilgrims returning from Ukraine to quarantine at home 

The Health Ministry will not require Hasidic pilgrims returning from Uman, Ukraine to quarantine in isolation hotels, and will instead allow them to self-isolate at home.  

According to estimates by the ministry, there are currently about 3,000 pilgrims in Uman, most of them from Israel, who are expected to return after the Rosh Hashanah holiday.

In recent weeks, the ministry has considered forcing those returning from the annual pilgrimage to enter mandatory quarantine in special hotels, which required the approval of the Defense Ministry, which is responsible for these hotels.

Meanwhile, about 2,500 Bratslav Hasidic Jews who left Israel are now waiting in Belarus in the hope that the authorities will allow them to enter Ukraine. Hundreds of them tried their luck Monday and reached the border, but were not allowed passage. Videos taken at the border show hundreds of followers singing and dancing in front of a wall of Belarusian soldiers who are not allowing them to cross.  (Aaron Rabinowitz)

2:12 P.M. Overburdened, first Israeli hospital says will turn away coronavirus patients

The director of Western Galilee Hospital in Nahariya, Prof. Masad Barhoum, announced that he had ordered it to stop accepting any more coronavirus patients because of overcrowding in the hospital’s coronavirus wards and intensive care units, as well as the high number of patients in serious condition and on ventilators.

As of Monday, 85 confirmed coronavirus patients were hospitalized in the hospital’s three dedicated COVID-19 wards. Thirty of them are in serious condition, three are on ventilators, 27 are in moderate condition and the rest are in fair condition.        

The problem is not just the coronavirus patients, but the fact that the hospital has 30 patients in serious condition in the hospital’s general and respiratory intensive care units, as well as other patients in pediatric, neurosurgical and cardiac intensive care units. 

The number of staff currently available to treat coronavirus patients is very small, Barhoum said. “The possibilities available to me were to transfer more patients in serious condition to the center of the country, so they could be treated by experienced medical staff, or for us to treat them by using staff we have trained.

"The staff that we have trained was prepared for a situation in which the entire system is in a state of insufficiency. Thank God, that is not the situation at the moment,” Barhoum said.

“There is no reason whatsoever that I should treat patients in serious condition and on ventilators with inexperienced staff if I can transport them to the center of the country. I conduct an assessment of the situation every morning and every evening, and as of now I have decided not to transfer patients to the center of the country. At the same time, given the present situation I will find it very difficult to accept additional patients because we don’t have enough experienced staff for patients in serious condition and on ventilators, so I issued an order that we stop accepting coronavirus patients,” Barhoum added.            

The Western Galilee Hospital has three dedicated COVID-19 wards that are currently over 90 percent full. At the moment, only three internal medicine wards are operating in the hospital, while two of its other internal medicine wards are being converted into COVID-19 wards. Another internal medicine ward that was recently converted into a dedicated COVID-19 ward has been filling up rapidly. (Ido Efrati)

1:26 P.M. Public Health Physicians said Israel should shorten isolation period for those traced by Shin Bet 

The Committee of the Association of Public Health Physicians of the Israel Medical Association said that some one million Israelis were placed in self-quarantine due to the Shin Bet security service digital tracking system.

According to the Health Ministry, the efficiency of the system is extremely low and the vast majority of those located by the system were not infected with the coronavirus. Many of them had not been exposed at all.

Unnecessary isolation causes health and social harms to the individual and the public, in addition to economic harm.

 In light of this, the physicians said they support an immediate reduction of the quarantine period for those traced by Shin Bet, similar to the calls made by lawmaker Zvika Hauser, chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. (Haaretz

1:04 P.M. Restaurant owners considering action over lockdown

Restaurateurs are expressing their anger over the coronavirus lockdown and vowing to take action, three days before their activities are again curtailed to deliveries only. 

"Instead of applying the traffic light plan, the government decided to paralyze the country and crush the economy," said Tomer Mor, the CEO of the organization Misadanim Chazakim B’yachad (Restaurateurs Strong Together), which counts hundreds of members. Mor said that independents were joining the protest and that detailed plans for action would be presented shortly. (Bar Peleg

10:50 A.M. Over 1,000 new cases registered since Sunday night as ultra-Orthodox clash with police

A total of 922 new coronavirus cases have been diagnosed in Israel since midnight, according to Health Ministry figures, increasing the total number of cases to 40,347.

Currently 1,056 COVID-19 patients are in the hospital, including 519 in serious condition and 144 who are on ventilators. As of Monday morning, these figures remained unchanged from the day before. The death toll from the virus is 1,119, which is also unchanged from Sunday.

Overnight Sunday, clashes broke out between police and residents of the Tel Aviv suburb of Bnei Brak, which has one of the highest coronavirus rates in the country, as the police tried to enforce limitations on gatherings and the evening and nighttime curfew imposed on the town. A policeman who had a bag of garbage thrown at him was later seen throwing it into the face of a resident.

The confrontation with the residents erupted after they had surrounded a policeman who was trying to disperse a crowd and who was forced to call in reinforcements, the police said. In another incident in the vicinity, residents threw eggs and bags of garbage at a police cruiser near a synagogue. Police reinforcements were dispatched to the scene to disperse the crowd and clashes broke out between the police and Bnei Brak residents.

It was after residents yelled that the police were Nazis, that one police officer threw the bag of garbage into a resident's face. The police said the incident will be investigated. (Bar Peleg)

A.M. Active cases top 40,000

Israel's Ministry of Health has reported that there are now 40,347 active cases out of a total of 156,596 cases.  

1,056 patients are hospitalized. 519 are in a serious condition, and 144 of them on ventilators. 1,119 people have died. (Haaretz)

SUNDAY

11:57 P.M. Government lockdown plan allows for dozens to gather in synagogues

After the government approved a three-week lockdown starting Friday, Prime Minister’s Office and the Health Ministry released a national plan, allowing dozens of worshippers to pray together indoors during the upcoming Jewish holidays. The plan also permits separate pods of up to 20 people to worship together outdoors. 

As part of the plan, stricter criteria apply to synagogues in locations with the highest rate of coronavirus infection, the so-called “red” zones, where group prayer will be limited to groups or pods of no more than 10 people. The number of prayer groups per synagogue in those communities will depend on the number of entrances to the building. Buildings with two entrances, for example, will be permitted six pods worshipping together, but the ultimate number of worshippers also depends on the size of the building. 

Less strict limitations apply in communities with lower COVID-19 rates, permitting worship by groups of up to 25 people. Rosh Hashanah, which begins Friday evening, marks the beginning of the fall Jewish holiday period. (Noa Landau and Ido Efrati)

11:16 P.M. Government to reassess lockdown after two weeks

Israel's nationwide lockdown, which goes into effect on Friday at 2 P.M., would last until October 11, but the government will have to vote on it two weeks after it starts, according to the full text of the resolution endorsed earlier on Sunday. (Noa Landau)

22:48 P.M. Israel approaching 40,000 active cases

Israel's Ministry of Health has reported a total of 1,997 new COVID-19 cases today, bringing the total cases to 155,604, with 39,479 of them considered active. Meanwhile, there were 16 additional deaths, with the new total standing at 1,119 deaths. 

1,056 patients are hospitalized. 519 are in a serious condition, and 144 of them on ventilators.

8:43 P.M. Cabinet approves three-week lockdown starting Friday

The Israeli government agreed to impose a three-week nationwide lockdown that would go into effect on Friday at 2 P.M., on the eve of Rosh Hashana holiday.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a press briefing that warnings by health officials led to the government’s decision, which restricts Israelis to a 500-meter (about 0.3 miles) radius of their residence, but allowed to commute to work.

Crowds are limited to 10 people indoors and 20 people outdoors, and Netanyahu said a separate decision will be made on prayer services. Supermarkets and pharmacies will stay open. The public sector will operate with fewer staff, but non-governmental offices and businesses will not have to close, as long as they do not accept customers.

The full details of the government's decision are set to be released later on Sunday.

"I know those measures will exact a heavy price on us all," Netanyahu said. "This is not the kind of holiday we are used to. And we certainly won't be able to celebrate with our extended families."

Netanyahu, who has faced increasing criticism over his handling of the coronavirus crisis, said he instructed his finance minister to come up with a new economic package to assist businesses hurt by the lockdown. (Noa Landau)

>> Click here to read the full report

5:15 P.M. Schools to stay open at least until holiday eve, vote on lockdown impending

The government decided that Israel's school system will stay open until Friday, Rosh Hashanah eve, changing course from the initial decision to close schools already on Wednesday.

A two-week nationwide lockdown is planned to start on Friday, as approved by the ministerial committee on Israel's coronavirus response last week, but the government has yet to approve the proposal, which will be voted on later on Sunday. (Noa Landau)

3:33 P.M. Record coronavirus infections endanger Israeli health system, report says

Israel’s increasing rate of coronavirus infection is inching the country’s hospitals closer to maximum capacity, destabilizing the health system, a report by Israel's coronavirus information center said Sunday.

The center’s daily report said that the coronavirus is rapidly spreading in Israel, adding that the rate of infection during the past two weeks is the highest recorded since the outbreak began. (Ido Efrati)

>> Click here to read the full report

12:10 P.M. Litzman resigns over expected lockdown

Ultra-Orthodox minister and Netanyahu ally Yaakov Litzman resigned from government in protest over an expected lockdown on Sunday. 

Litzman is the chairman of the United Torah Judaism party and construction and housing minister. He had threatened to resign earlier Sunday if the coronavirus cabinet votes to impose a two-week lockdown ahead of the Rosh Hashanah holiday.

In a statement, Litzman said a lockdown during the High Holidays "will prevent hundreds of thousands of Jews, of all sectors, from praying in synagogues."

A UTJ source told Haaretz earlier today that Litzman is acting independently and that his decisions are not coordinated with the rest of the party. Litzman opposes the lockdown because it would prevent major events during the holiday, and he wants to signal that he still maintains control over the Gur Hasidic sect, among other reasons. (Aaron Rabinowitz)

11:10 A.M.  Coronavirus infection rate endangers stability of  health system, national report says

Israel's increasing rate of coronavirus infection is inching the country's hospitals closer to maximum capacity, destabilizing the health system, says a report by the military Coronavirus Command and Control Center on Sunday.

The Command Center's daily report said that the coronavirus is rapidly spreading in Israel, adding that the rate of infection during the past two weeks is the highest recorded since the outbreak began.

The report stressed that Israel's percentage of positive COVID-19 tests is one of the highest in the world. The report added that the number of seriously ill patients is on the rise, and expected to exceed 500 today. (Ido Efrati)

8:45 A.M. Ultra-orthodox minister threatens to resign if lockdown is imposed

Construction and Housing Minister Yaakov Litzman, chairman of United Torah Judaism, told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he would to resign from the government if the coronavirus cabinet votes to impose a lockdown ahead of the Rosh Hashanah holiday.

A UTJ source told Haaretz that Litzman is acting independently and that his decisions are not coordinated with the rest of the party. Litzman opposes the lockdown because it would prevent major events during the holiday, and he wants to signal that he still maintains control over the Gur Hasidic sect, among other reasons. 

Coronavirus Czar Ronni Gamzu visited the Gur beit midrash – or place of religious study – two weeks ago; Litzman believes the space can fit 2,000 people due to its size and number of exits, but the Health Ministry set its maximum capacity at 100. 

Later today, the cabinet is expected to approve a full lockdown beginning 6:00 A.M. Friday morning, about 12 hours before the start of Rosh Hashanah.

During the lockdown, the entire country will be considered a "red" zone, and people will be restricted to a 500-meter (0.3 miles) radius from their place of residence. All businesses, commerce, domestic tourism, places of entertainment and government offices that serve people in person will be closed, with the exception of essential services, grocery stores and supermarkets, pharmacies, hardware stores, medical supply stores and computer and cellphone stores and repair facilities. Restaurants will be limited to delivery and takeout service.

Government offices will operate at 30 percent of normal staffing levels, except for essential organizations. Businesses will be limited to 10 employees or 30 percent of normal staffing levels, whichever is higher. Essential organizations are exempt from these limits. (Chaim Levinson and Aaron Rabinowitz)

8:40 A.M. Some 500 new cases diagnosed since Saturday night

 The Health Ministry said that 495 more people have tested positive for the coronavirus since Saturday night, raising the nationwide tally of confirmed cases to 153,217, out of which 37,482 are active and 130 are on ventilators.

So far, 1,103 people have died from the virus and 114,624 have recovered.

The ministry added that 30,253 coronavirus tests were conducted on Saturday. (Haaretz)

SATURDAY

10:50 P.M. Israel registers 4,158 new cases on Saturday

Israel registered nearly 200 new coronavirus cases in just several hours on Saturday evening, raising the total for the day to 4,158. The number of active cases stands at 38,119 and the total to date is 152,722. Twenty-six people died in less in 24 hours, raising the death toll in Israel to 1,103. 

8:30 P.M. Minister quarantined after exposure to coronavirus

Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel was ordered to quarantine after one of his staffers tested positive for coronavirus. Hendel tested negative but is said to continue self-isolating per Health Ministry regulations. (Jonathan Lis)

7:30 P.M. More than 1,000 coronavirus patients hospitalized in Israel

The Health Ministry reported that 1,018 coronavirus patients in Israel are currently hospitalized, a record number since the end of the first wave in April. Of those, 495 are in serious condition, and 138 of them on life support.

The ministry also reported 3,961 new cases on Saturday, bringing the total number of cases since the outbreak began to 152,525, with 37,926 of them currently active.

Additionally, 1,101 COVID-19 patients have died so far. (Haaretz)

6:40 P.M. Almost a million Israelis told to enter isolation since July, Health Ministry data shows 

From July 1 to the present, about 978,000 people were asked to enter isolation, according to a Health Ministry report filed with a Knesset panel. 164,655 of those were in the past week.

Israel has used the Shin Bet security service's systems to monitor those who come into contact with confirmed coronavirus cases. Being the only country to use this kind of technology to monitor the spread of the virus, it has a relatively high number of citizens entering isolation. (Jonathan Lis)

5:56 P.M. Active cases in Israel top 35,000

Israel's Health Ministry reported 1,185 new coronavirus cases since its noon update, bringing the total number of cases since the outbreak began to 148,594, with 35,740 of them active.

979 patients are hospitalized, with 486 in serious condition and 146 of them on life support. 1,090 COVID-19 patients have died so far. (Haaretz)

12:43 P.M. Health Ministry records nine more deaths, bringing total to 1,086

A noon update from Israel's Health Ministry has the current total number of cases at 147,379, out of which 34,731 are considered active. 

The deaths of nine patients were recorded since morning numbers were released, bringing the total death toll to 1,086. There are 482 patients in serious conditions, and 148 of them are currently on ventilators. (Haaretz)

6:51 A.M. Total number of cases rises to 146,542, while active cases drop slightly overnight

Figures from Israel's Health Ministry showed that active cases had gone down overnight to 33,920, as 1,597 were added to the number of patients who had recovered. 

There are currently 489 patients in serious condition in Israeli hospitals, with 134 of them on ventilators. The death toll remains at 1,077. (Haaretz)

1:00 A.M. Israel diagnoses 4,429 news cases in a day

The number of coronavirus cases in Israel rose by 4,429 to reach 34,505 active cases on Thursday, while the death toll rose to 1,077, Health Ministry figures show. 

In addition, 144 patients are on ventilators, 486 are in serious condition and 109,915 cases have recovered.

The ministry added that 41,210 coronavirus tests were conducted on Thursday. (Haaretz)

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